Sabbioneta is a characteristic village in the province of Mantua, originally conceived by the prince and patron Vespasiano Gonzaga Colonna. Its design was modelled after ancient Roman cities with an urban plan that takes the functional and modern vision of the Renaissance into account.
Looking at the grid layout of the streets, the urban structure in the shape of a six-pointed star created by the hexagonal shape of the walls, the role played by public spaces and monuments, the visitor immediately perceives the charm of this ideal city that rises up like a mirage in the plain, justa few kilometres from the Po river. The entrance to the city isPorta Vittoria (1567), a gate with a marble facade and exposed brickwork. Be sure to admire the nearbyIncoronata Church (1586-88) with its octagonal plan.
Piazza Ducale is the perfect vantage point foradmiring the rigour of Sabbioneta's urban layout. Rectangular in shape, the square is bordered to the south by an arched portico which culminates to the west at the corner of Palazzetto del Cavalleggero, and to the north by the Church of the Assumption. The short sides of the square is occupied by Palazzo della Ragione, the ancient home of the Community and of the ducal vicar, and Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace), the centre of public life and administration of the small State of Sabbioneta and the first step inVespasiano Gonzaga's ambitious architectural plan.
In Piazza San Rocco be sure to visit the 17th-century Church of San Roccothat contains frescoes by Giovanni Morini, and the Synagogue, located on the second floor of a group of houses that made up the ancient Jewish district. Walk through Piazza Ducale to reach the Teatro all'Antica (Ancient Theatre)built from 1588 to 1590. Another interesting landmark is Palazzo Giardino (1578-88), a suburban villa and delightful place where the prince took refuge to read, study and seek distraction from his government commitments.
To the left of the gate of PortaImperiale(1579 ) is Palazzo Forti, owned by a wealthy Jewish family until the first half of the 20th century, and to the right is the Church of the Carmine (1683) rebuilt on the existing 16th century structure. As you exit the city through the gate of Porta Imperiale you will see the remains of the fortress and, following the exterior walkway that draws emphasis to the six bastions, the fully restored walls in the shape of an irregular star.